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We, the audience, are the collective witness. It is, among other things, a sendup of Freudian quackery, a priapic spoof of sexual identity, a satire on marital fidelity, a delicious mockery of hero worship, a put-down of religion, a parody of farce itself and, line for line, probably the brassiest, most subversive slapstick comedy of the British stage. As the play begins, Dr.
British playwright Joe Orton, who rose from a working class background and a stint in prison to a short but prolific life as one of Britain's most outstanding playwrights, never lived to see a production of his brilliant farce What the Butler Saw. Orton, who was murdered by his lover nearly two years before its debut, wrote the play partly in response to Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnestcombining the drawing room elements of Wilde's play with Orton's darker, more outrageous perspective. Dark comedies -- especially those that lampoon social and sexual mores -- often lose their edge and humor over time.
He was slim, straight-acting, and attractive. And he claimed to have an enormous cock. Always delighted to shock people, he promiscuously cruised in the public toilets of north London in search of anonymous sex, even though he had already been shacked up with a man, his lover and mentor Kenneth Halliwell, for almost sixteen years.
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W e already know Donald Trump represents the triumph of the literal. After all, he turned a Republican primary into an actual dick-measuring contest. So the news that his seneschal is called Mr Senecal was only to be expected.
Had he lived on we can only imagine the joys his future plays may have brought us. What The Butler Saw is cleverly witty, pokes fun at sex, family relationships, sanity and most of all the pomposity of authority. It would be contrary to established practice.
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The first audiences were so outraged that they disturbed the performance, yelling at the actors and destroying their programs. Orton, however, has gained international respect and recognition as an important playwright. Most critics regard What the Butler Saw as his finest play.